Sunday, 28 August 2011

Film Review - Cowboys and Aliens (2011)

Cowboys and Aliens - (2011)

A really enjoyable film. Not as mad as I thought it was going to be. I went in thinking it would just be an indulgant piece, just for the eight year old boys in us all, full of gunfights and laser rays and stuff (yes I’m looking at you Transformers…) but it wasn’t…

It had a story that made sense given the genre, and had some great characterisation and performances. To be honest, with the likes of Craig and Ford, I should have expected it to have a bit of meaning. Both give good performances, along with Wilde and The Last Airbender's Noah Ringer.

At times, the sense of reservement held back the film a bit too much- the pacing was slow in some places, especially for a sci-fi film. Not as good as Super 8 but all in all, it was an enjoyable film, with more heart than you’d expect…

7 out of 10.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Film Review - Super 8 (2011)

Super 8 (2011)

I feel the marketing for this film only gave you half of what the film is about. Yes, it is a sci-fi thriller, with plenty of intrique, but there's another side to it too...

And that side is called the Goonies...

And you know what? It works like a charm.

A group of kids in 70s America are trying to film a zombie movie on their Super 8 camera. Whilst out, the witness a horrific train crash- and one of them knows it wasn't an accident. When the army show up, and strange occurances start happening in the town, the kids know something more is going on...

Those 80s kids adventure movies like the Goonies have developed a cult following. But among todays cynical modern audiences, their in-your-face cheesiness just wouldn't cut it.

But Abrams combines all that we love about those adventure flicks with a suspenseful sci-fi thriller. The result is wonderful, both a flashback to childhood innocence and wonder and a geninuely intense plot...

There are some great jumps in the film, none that I was expecting. And the action sequences are incredible. The train crash at the start is intense, and wondefully filmed, and the final run through the army-controlled town is stunning... A lot of the shots of the monster just happen in the edge of your vision- sometimes, even you won't notice it's there until it's right on top of the camera...

The film relies heavily on the child actors. The film wouldn't have worked if they hadn't been able to pull it off. Luckily, they were all brilliant but major shout-outs to the two leads- Newcomer Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning. Both show a subtlety in their performance that was really needed here.

While the first and third acts excel -making you just comfortable enough before hitting you with a scare again- the second act suffers slightly. The pace drops, while the subplot is explained. Granted, said subplot creates another level in the film, and gives the actors a chance to showcase a heartwrenching performance, but the intensity of the first act is lost, and it takes a while to find it again.

One of the best things about this film though, is it's ability to pay homage to the 80s films of people like Spielberg and Lucas, without falling into cliched territory. In essence, it's a wonderfully simple film, that's perfect for anyone wanting to return to childhood innocence, but with a modern sci-fi twist...

Oh and make sure you watch the credits for the actual Super 8 movie...

Rating: 9 out of 10

Monday, 30 May 2011

Film Review - Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Now, before I begin let me state that I absolutely adore the Pirates of the Caribbean films. They have such a charm about them that I love.

That doesn't mean, however, that I can't see their flaws. Dead Man's Chest is not a patch on Black Pearl, and while World's End looks impressive, the truth is it is a complicated mess. I still love them though.

However, Stranger Tides has let me down.

What I was hoping for was the funny, clever fantasy adventure that we got from one, with Depp being able to shine as our swaggering and loveable Captain Jack. He has no Knightly or Bloom to weigh him down with plot; the focus could be completely on him.

However, that's not what the filmmakers had in mind. They have replaced Knightly and Bloom with two new romantic leads (Sam Clafin and Astrid Berges-Frisby), while also adding an old flame (Penelope Cruz) and a new enemy (Ian McShane)... and it fails completely.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against any of the actors mentioned above. Depp is on top form as usual as Sparrow, but their isn't any of those quirky one-liners or scene stealing moments that you get in the other films (why is the rum always gone?), simply because the plot is mind-boggingly complicated and so full of holes it just sinks (see what I did there?! ;P). Geoffry Rush as brilliant again and Ian McShane is given the dream role as Blackbeard, the most evil bastard to ever roam the seven seas... so why the hell is he given so little to do?!

And that right there is the problem. All the actors are brilliant as usual, even the newcomers. However (and I'm really sorry when I say this- I adore Sam Clafin; watch Pillars of the Earth to see why) not all of them are needed. All they succeed in doing is creating a, quite frankly, ridiculous plot, with too many characters that don't even know their own motivation, so I have no idea how an audience is gonna know!

There are some good elements to the film. Blackbeard's ship is impressive (but again, not featured enough). And the introduction of the mermaids is incredibly creepy. However, these don't outweigh the fact that you have no idea what is going on!

I have no doubt that Stranger Tides will still do well at the box office and the ending screams sequel, but here's hoping the producers learn one simple rule before then- all we need is a ship, a horizon and Captain Jack Sparrow...

Rating: 4 out of 10

Friday, 13 May 2011

Film Review - Attack The Block (2011)

Attack The Block (2011) - Joe Cornish
This film's been on the radar for a while now. It stormed the SXSW convention and has been getting a lot of positive media attention. Well, believe the hype. It's incredible.

The concept is simple; Aliens invade a council block full of teenagers in South London. The result is stunning. First-time film director Cornish has done a brilliant job.

Given Cornish's background and the people involved (Nick Frost, Nira Park), you may think this is a comedic paraody like Shaun of the Dead (2004). Don't be fooled. The comedy takes a back seat; this is a dark, jumpy sci-fi thriller, with some scenes that are completely unexpected.

Cornish has seemlessly bought all the tension and suspense of your typical Hollywood sci-fi to British shores, and he's done it amazingly well. The aliens are creepy and nothing like you've ever seen before. The pace never drops and the scares are real. And our heroes aren't Bruce Willis or Will Smith- they are that gang of hoodies you crossed the street to avoid yesterday. Each and everyone one of them is brilliant, but our main protagonist Moses really stands out. Newcomer John Boyega portrays him with a great but quiet strength and confidence as he tries to deal with the chaos around him.

There are laughs in there mainly courtesy of Luke Treadaway's Brewis or Alex Esmail's Pest, both brilliant. And you may find yourself laughing at the start of the film with the completely stereotypical 'hoodie' dialogue. But pretty soon, you'll be talking like them. Trust.

That's because Cornish doesn't make these characters stupid or bad. He spent a year in youth centres getting to know kids like the ones you see. He shows these guys are clever and portrayed in a sympathetic light; there's a brutual reminder towards the end of the film that at the end of the day, these guys are just kids. And you will find yourselves completely on their side- I beg you not to cheer when that firework flies down the corridor or when they take to the streets on whatever they can get their hands on.

What really makes this film though, is the direction. Cornish's take is refreshing, when don't need that big helicopter shot or that massive explosion to get us on the edge of our seats; we get right in on the action, running down the stairwell or jumping over walls with these guys. Dark creeping lighting adds brilliantly to the atmosphere. A council block has never looked more beautiful and just wait for the stunning slow-mo finale...

A film hasn't blown me away like this for a while. Cornish proves that you don't need a big budget to make an amazing sci-fi thriller, and reminds the world once again, that British film is still alive and kicking.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Why you should know the name Starkid and how they will blow your mind...

Dear people of the UK.

I understand there may have been a slight distraction for most of you this week. However, that shouldn't have taken away from the other big event of the year- the release of the new Starkid production- Starship!

Now, it's not just your blank faces that tell me you know nothing about this. The numbers also tell a story. The Starship cast album was released yesterday. In four other countries, the album is or has been in the top ten of the iTunes album chart. In UK, it is currently at number 36. This upsets me. Hence, I will now explain who Starkid are and why you should watch their shows. You should thank me in advance for the mind-blowing you are about to recieve...

Starkid are a group of actors, writers, musicians and other talented artists who have come together to create some truly awesome musical shows. These shows they then record and share with the world on YouTube. Their name cames from one of the first shows they did, and certainly the first one that gave them major acclaim. This show was called A Very Potter Musical...


Yes, what you just saw was a the opening of a Harry Potter musical. I bet you wanna keep watching, but give it just a minute... let me explain some more.

This show was such a success that the group created a sequel to this, the appropriately titled A Very Potter Sequel. These shows are amazing, brilliantly funny and with their own original songs.

Obviously, Starkid could not make any profit from these shows, with the giants that are J.K Rowling and Warner Bros. owning the concept behind them. However, what the shows did do was gain Starkid a huge legion of fans, the...*ahem* well, the Starkids.

So, when Starkid created their own musicals based on their own stories, their fan base was already in place. The first of these productions was called Me and My Dick.

Yes, he may be singing to a personification of his penis, but this show is tremendously funny, heartwarmingly charming and full of infections songs. The acting's amazing too... seriously, all of them are so talented that is just not fair. Watch all of it and if you don't have Land of the Dicks in your head for days then something's wrong with you...

However, where Starkid have really come into their own is with their latest show Starship. 

Each new show Starkid release is always bigger than the last and this is no exception. The hype for this show between the fans was incredible and April 30th really was as anticipated as the day before... even if the reasons for said anticipation was completely different...

And Starkid didn't disappoint. Starship tells the story of Bug, an alien from a distant planet who dreams of becoming a Starship Ranger, a term he learned from the human space ship that crashed on his planet 18 years ago. When another Starship arrives, Bug leaps at the opportunity to fulfil his dream... Unsuprisingly, This show is full of that infectious charm that Starkid are now renowed for; it's witty, intelligent and incredibly nerdy ("You. Are. A. Toaster.").

If you watched some of the videos I've posted on this page (if not, do it now!), you'll already know how talented these guys are. Just to name a few, because they are all so amazing, Joey Richter (Bug, Ron and err... Joey Richter) is stunning and needs to be on Broadway now. Lauren Lopez (Draco and Taz) makes me die with laughter everytime I see her, and Brian Holden (Lupin and Junior) not only totally steals the second act of Starship but he co-wrote it too. You've also probably noticed that Harry Potter is played by none other than Glee star Darren Criss, who also wrote the songs for Starship and many of the others you've heard too.

As Starship is their own original idea, Starkid are able to make money from it. As stated above, the cast album has been released, t-shirts and other merchandise is avaliable and The DVD of Starship is already SOLD OUT! But the best thing I've noticed about Starship? No where have a seen a link to a free download of the cast album; instead it's currently number 4 on the US iTunes chart. If that isn't a testament to fan loyalty, I don't know what is...

You've probably noticed how long this post is. For that I am sorry but I feel very passionately about these guys. They represent everything that's good about the internet; talented people being able to get the recognition that they deserve. The world is too full of people who are famous for nothing, and sure, the web usually gives us them too. However, if through all that trash, a group like Starkid are given the opportunity to shine, then I'm happy to sit through all the Rebecca Blacks and Charlie Sheens the internet has, so long as at the end of it all, I get to be a Starship Ranger...

For more info on Starkid and their productions, check out their website:

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Film Review - Thor (2011)

Thor (2011) - Kenneth Branagh

a.k.a Marvel hearts Continunity

Ok, so I told a slight lie. This review IS major spoiler-free but if you avoid spoilers like the plague (I'm looking at you @tjmont !), then it would be classed as slightly contagious. Nothing major, though, I promise.

However, if you don't want to know the details, here's a mini review- it's amazing, Asgard's beautiful and it's brilliantly handled by Branagh, with great performances all round, especially Tom Hiddleston (Loki).

Tim, you might wanna stop reading now. Some of you still with me, though? Good. Here's the full meaty review...

Like most people, I was quite surprised to hear Kenneth Branagh was directed this film. A superhero movie? From the King of Shakespeare? I didn't think it was a bad thing... just a change of tune and something unexpected.

However, now I can see why he was chosen. The direction is brilliant, subtly adding to the film without ever becoming distracting. Asgard, with all it's majesty, required the touch of someone used to the dramatic and Branagh's experience and love of Shakespeare serves him well.

We constantly flick between Earth and Asgard and each story and place is given the same respect; none of it is used as filler, and the story line is never confusing. I have never read the Thor comics, so I don't know how it compares but Asgard looks incredible; regal, majestic and otherworldly* (as it should be) and the Bifrost is certainly the best way to travel ever. That doesn't mean the film doesn't translate well to Earth; on the contary, this is given the slick treatment we are used to from Ironman, with SHEILD featuring a lot more. There's even a cameo that I knew nothing about that got me very excited... However, it is Asgard that truly stands out, as it should do.

What really got my excited about this film, however, are the characters. While the action sequences are there, the characters are what drives this story, and each is played incredibly well.

Chris Hemsworth has the unenvible job of playing a hero that, at least to start with, we aren't supposed to like. He's arrogant, reckless and rude to Anthony Hopkins, which will never put you in anyone's good books. However, he pulls it off brilliantly. It could possibly be argued that he's slightly OTT, but he should be- he's the God of Thunder for Odin's sake! His change throughout the movie, at the hands of Jane, is utterly believable and he never, ever loses that powerful prescence that makes him the son of Odin. I can't think of anyone better for the job.

Speaking of Jane, my girl crush Natalie Portman is on top form as always. Honestly, she must be the hardest working actress in Hollywood; that girls in everything and she just gets better... Stellan Skasgard is also fantastic, as Dr Selvik... and now I'll shut up about him *wink*. I also complete love Thor's 'dream team' of Sif and The Warriors Three- prequel, anyone?

However, the real joy to watch is Tom Hiddleston as Thor's brother Loki. This is as much his story as Thor's and he is the most well rounded villan I've seen in a superhero movie for a long time. Hiddleston makes him completely compelling, as he deals with his own identity crisis. My favourite scenes where those between Thor and Loki, especially the one in the SHEILD bunker. Hemsworth and Hiddleston do an amazing job- these two brothers clearly love each other, even if they don't always agree.

At it's heart then, it is a story about family and character, and this is what sets it apart from other hero movies and keeps you completely absorbed. As stated above, Marvel loves contiunity (look out for that cameo and stay until after the credits...) and hopeful everything should come together nicely for the Joss Whedon written-and- directed Avengers next year (*fangirl squeeing*). This is a wonderful addition to the Marvel franchise and I hope we see Branagh, Hemsworth and Hiddleston in a lot more.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

*I didn't see the film in 3D simply because my father was with me and he doesn't like it. However, I will see it again in 3D just to see the effect... I can imagine be pretty epic and not just there for show...

Mini Film Review - Arthur (2011)

Arthur (2011) - Jason Winer

Ok, I admit. Being a Brand fan, this film always appealed to me. But even if Brand isn't always your cup of tea, this film is definately worth a look. 

Of course, it does completely rely on Brand's charm and appeal, but luckily, he has it in abundence. There are also some genuinely touching and heartwarming moments, and yes, Russell Brand made me cry. Helen Mirren is also brilliant, but, let's be honest, that goes without saying...

The storyline is slightly confusing, with Brand's prescence taking all the attention. But overall, this is a warm, witty film with Brand on top form.

Rating: 7 out of 10.